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Unconditional Care Clinical Training Series

Presented by John Sprinson, PhD

John Sprinson, Ph.D., is currently the Clinical Director at Seneca Family of Agencies.  John joined Seneca during its first year of existence and has been actively involved in the clinical leadership of the agency throughout its history.  John, together with Ken Berrick, Seneca’s founder, co-authored Unconditional Care: Relationship-based, Behavioral Intervention With Vulnerable Children and Families, which was published by Oxford University Press in 2010.  This book is a comprehensive statement of the theoretical and methodological base of the agency’s efforts to support vulnerable children and youth.  Since the 1980s John has been interested in attachment theory, learning theory, trauma and clinical training and staff training.
John received his graduate training in Psychology at Duke University and was a Post Doctoral Fellow at UCSF.  Prior to joining Seneca Center he was an assistant director of a day treatment program for young children.  In addition to his work at Seneca John maintains an active psychotherapy practice in Oakland where he sees children, adolescents and parents.
Please click here for additional information on the Unconditional Care Book.

Unconditional Care Trainings


This series of four trainings is intended to provide clinicians, program managers and other interested staff with a basic familiarity with the theoretical and methodological foundation of unconditional care.


Child Development and Relational Treatment — 4 BBS CEUs
This training is an introduction to key concepts in the development of relatedness and attachment in young children. The history of the concept of attachment and early work in the field will be reviewed. The negative effects of maternal deprivation and disrupted early connections to caretakers will be described. Participants will be introduced to the concept of attachment styles and there will be a particular focus on the disorganized/disoriented attachments that are regularly seen in the children served by the child welfare and mental health systems. The complementary states of mind observed in caretakers will be examined and then a case example will be used to illustrate the presence of these issues in live clinical material. Finally, an approach to treatment based on disconfirming relational experience will be discussed.


Curiosity and Relational Assessment — 4 BBS CEUs
This training reviews some basic assumptions and problems that are encountered in all initial assessments of clients. An approach to assessment based on attachment theory is offered. This approach involves describing the child’s working model of relationships and utilizes data from the child’s experience with caretakers and data from his or her current interpersonal functioning. How this data can be used in relational treatment planning is discussed.


Trauma and its Impact on Child Development — 4 BBS CEUs
A brief history of trauma studies will be given and recent developments in the field regarding complex trauma and developmental trauma disorder will be discussed. The special problems of children who experience trauma at the hands of their caretakers will be described. The effects of some specific forms of trauma and maltreatment will also be covered. Treatment considerations, especially as they relate to children who have both trauma and attachment difficulties will be outlined.


Positive Behavioral Interventions — 4 BBS CEUs
This training is an introduction to implementing behavioral intervention with children who present with a variety of challenging behaviors. It includes a discussion of basic principles of behavior modification, behavioral assessment, functional assessment and methods of intervention. The discussion addresses the advantages, risks and limitations of these approaches in various settings including group care settings, classrooms and families.

Seneca Employees and providers working with dependents youth in Alameda, Solano, and San Francisco counties can register to attend these trainings, please click here to view and register for classes. For agencies that do not work with dependent youth in the counties listed above, please contact training@senecacenter.org to schedule these trainings at your site.